When players enter casinos, they may be game to try out their luck, but casinos are meticulously designed to ensure that they play as long as possible—lucky or not. Casinos conveniently have no windows, so patrons have a harder time tracking the time passing at the tables. They serve free drinks to gamblers to help loosen inhibitions (and open wallets). They carefully calculate wins and losses to make sure dealers aren’t in cahoots with players. And not only do they monitor every table through video surveillance to look out for suspicious activity, but they also hire undercover security to patrol the floor.
A lot of money goes into casinos, and that’s where the owners want it to stay. In fact, most casino games have a built-in house advantage, which can reach between .5% to 30%, depending on the game. If you cost the casino too much money, no doubt casinos will think twice before they open their doors to you again.
Although winning too much is a rare reason for casinos to ban a customer, it could theoretically happen. Gambling operations are privately owned businesses and can refuse service to anyone without providing a reason. A handful of celebrities have admitted to being banned from casinos because Lady Luck was happily on their side while playing blackjack. (A game that only gives the house as little as 0.28% of an edge when played with liberal Vegas rules.) One celeb was shut out simply for perceived prowess; he didn’t even make it to the gambling tables. Still, another one was banned for less stellar reasons.
So which notable figures got the boot? ATS.io compiled a list of five famous people who’ve been banned from casinos using various news articles. Read on to see which celebrities broke casinos’ banks and, in one case, also broke a casino’s trash can.
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Matt Damon starred in the cult poker flick “Rounders,” but maybe director John Dahl should’ve cast Damon’s pal, Ben Affleck, instead. In May 2014, the famous actor notoriously got banned for life from playing blackjack at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. He was accused of counting cards at a high rollers’ table. He fessed up to the incident in an interview with Details magazine a few months later.
“I took some time to learn the game and became a decent blackjack player. And once I became decent, the casinos asked me not to play blackjack,” Affleck said at the time. “I mean, the fact that being good at the game is against the rules at the casinos should tell you something about casinos.”
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Dana White might be best known as CEO and president of the UFC, but he’s also an exceptional blackjack player and likes to play at high-stakes tables in Las Vegas. It’s been reported that White’s won $7 million in a single night, and according to the high roller, his success at the game has resulted in a handful of casinos denying him a seat at the table.
“It’s not that I’m banned from casinos, they just don’t want me to play there,” White explained in response to a fan question on GQ Sports. “They won’t give me the limits that I want and they won’t let me bet as much as I want because they don’t like to lose.”
“The Palms has kicked me out of there twice, The Mirage, the Wynn will not let me play,” he admitted. “The only places that will let me play in town are Caesars Palace, the Bellagio, and The Venetian.”
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If you count cards for a living, chances are casinos won’t want you anywhere near their blackjack tables. Derren Brown is a famous illusionist and is known for his card tricks, among other awe-inspiring acts. While his abilities have translated into a lucrative career, they’ve also caused casinos around the U.K. to ban the English entertainer from playing blackjack at their establishments. (It doesn’t help that he shared a video on YouTube demonstrating how he wins the game.)
In 2013, Brown tried to go out with friends to play blackjack at the Broadway Plaza Casino in Birmingham after one of his shows. While the venue did allow him to enter and take a seat at a table with his pals, they told him he couldn’t place any bets. Despite not letting him play, the casino was quite kind to Brown.
“They were very nice, served me food, but they wouldn’t let me play,” he told The Scotsman at the time. “I watched the others for a bit and then left. I was escorted out by a member of staff and the manager.”
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While some of the celebrities on this list were banned from casinos because they won too often, Allen Iverson is a different case. In 2009, the former NBA star was banned from Detroit casinos because of his behavior at the table. He was a poor loser, and when he lost (which was often) he would throw cards or chips at the dealer. He was also disruptive and rude to other players and staff. As if that’s not bad enough, AI also infamously got banned from an Atlantic City casino for urinating in a trash can. Yikes!
Stu Ungar is widely considered to be the greatest poker player in history and won three World Series of Poker championships before his life was cut short by heavy drug use at age 45. However, despite being a legendary player (and posthumously inducted into the WSOP Hall of Fame in 2001), “The Kid” was actually banned from playing blackjack at a number of casinos in his lifetime.
Why? Because his genius-level IQ and amazing memory meant he was gifted not only at playing the game but also at counting cards. At the time of his death in 1998, Ungar was banned from playing blackjack at every casino in Las Vegas.
Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Tim Bruns.
This story originally appeared on ATS.io and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.